Urban design as (counter-) democratic security politics (new article)

SPSRUrban design is increasingly widely used for city-oriented security production, and thus becomes included into the latter’s complex politics of in- and exclusion. This contribution showcases how urban design becomes deployed as a technology of security both internationally and in Switzerland, and how a reflexive security studies perspective on this use offers productive new research avenues. This is because the focus on urban design allows asking in new ways whether ‘more security is better’, how technological interventions are used and appropriated, and how they reconfigure democratic processes. Security research drawing on reflexive IR and security studies is well placed to this endeavour, as it proposes integrative and dialectical analyses of how built environments may be empowering/disempowering and inclusive/exclusive. The contribution sets out the specificities of this research ontology, presents urban design’s operation as technology of security politics, and illustrates said link in two mini-case studies centring in Bogotá and Zürich. In line with the special section to which it contributes, the article seeks to familiarize readers with architecture-oriented political analysis, and to draw out main lines of further investigation.

Hagmann, Jonas; Kostenwein, David (forth.). Urban design as technology of (counter-) democratic security politics. Swiss Political Science Review.

The politics of technology and security in Switzerland (new special section)

SPSRNew technologies – from nanotech to drones, bioengineering and smart weapons – play prominent but also highly ambivalent roles in contemporary accounts of security politics. For some, the innovations represent potent solution to complex management problems. But for others, the new technologies themselves are causing the most pressing societal dangers of today. This dominant Manichean framing of technology yet distracts from the fact that technology has no deterministic effects in and of itself. In a reflexive security studies perspective, the shape, design and uses of ‘new tech’ is deeply enmeshed in shifting power-laden social and political practices, and thus much more contradictory and dynamic. This new special section focuses on these complex processes of making new technology meaningful – and operational – in the security field. Its seven contributions look at how cybersecurity, predictive policing, drones, artificial intelligence, targeted sanctions and urban design are enlisted as technologies of security in Switzerland, and they offer a range of dedicated analytical arguments about how this process evolves. The ambition of the special section is to introduce readers not commonly engaing with security technology with state-of-the-art conception of their political significance, and to showcase contributions of reflexive IR and security research to political analysis.

Dunn Cavelty, Myriam; Hagmann, Jonas (forth.). The politics of technology and security in Switzerland. Swiss Political Science Review. With contributions by Florian Egloff, Myriam Dunn Cavelty, Matthias Leese, Francisco Klauser, Andreas Wenger, Sophie-Charlotte Fischer, Mark Daniel Jäger, Jonas Hagmann, David Kostenwein and Anna Leander.

UNSCdeb8: A new digital repository to analyse the UN Security Council

What do UN Security Council delegations mean what talking about threats to international peace and security? In the context of a larger trinational research project run by the University of Geneva, SWP Berlin and ETH Zürich, we digitised the statemens made by all 15 Council member delegations. The database – which will be expanded in the future with additional data-years and invited speakers – currently covers the years 2010-2018. This makes for 12’362 individual statements that can be queried by various pre-select and open parameters at the hands of a dedicated search engine and user interface.


How is peacebuilding construed? What’s the situation in Syria about? Targeted sanctions means what? With its focus on Security Council debates, the platform offers a new tool to analyse contents of statement and distributions of discursive powers within the Council. As public resource, it allows visitors to create quick tableaux of results, visualise the distribution of tropes across time, or download sorted sets of statements. 

Visit and use the platform UNSCdeb8 here.

Historicizing critical security analysis – utilities of looking beyond the current (new special section article)

ContemporaneaContemporary security practices rarely represent new inventions – albeit change is important to it, the security politics of today often has a very long lineage. It adapts, reworks and sometimes just rehashes old ideas and practices of policing, and is embedded in deeply entrenched, historically grown and power-laden frameworks of collective, national, local or international sense- and decision-making. This contribution to Contemporanea‘s Special Section on the “History of Transnational Security Management in Europe” argues that is important and useful for critical security studies to enter into a more systematic kind of dialogue with history. If, in turn, historians are willing to help in this effort and engage themselves more closely with the analytical frameworks and discussions of security scholars, then productive new academic encounters ensue.

Hagmann, Jonas (2019). Historicizing security analysis: the utility of looking beyond the current. Contemporanea Rivista di Storia (Italian Contemporary History Review) 22(4): 215-220. PDF